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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Daily Report: Apps That Anticipate Your Needs

A range of start-ups and big companies like Google are working on what is known as predictive search â€" new tools that act as robotic personal assistants, anticipating what you need before you ask for it.

Glance at your phone in the morning, for instance, and see an alert that you need to leave early for your next meeting because of traffic, even though you never told your phone you had a meeting, or where it was, Claire Cain Miller reports.

How does the phone know? Because an application has read your e-mail, scanned your calendar, tracked your location, parsed traffic patterns and figured out that you need an extra half-hour to drive to the meeting.

The technology is the latest development in Web search, and one of the first that is tailored to mobile devices. It does not even require a person to enter a search query. Your context â€" location, time of day and digital activity â€" is the query, say the engineers who build these services.

Many technologists agree that these services will probably become mainstream, eventually incorporated in alarm clocks, refrigerators and bathroom mirrors. Already, an app called Google Now is an important part of Google’s Internet-connected glasses. As a Glass wearer walks through the airport, her hands full of luggage, it could show her an alert that her flight is delayed.

Google Now is “kind of blowing my mind right now,” said Danny Sullivan, a founding editor of Search Engine Land who has been studying search for two decades. “I mean, I’m pretty jaded, right? I’ve seen all types of things that were supposed to revolutionize search, but pretty much they haven’t. Google Now is doing that.”